Explore the long range of grey
The opposite of dramatic high contrast is a focus on the mid-tones
The opposite approach to the dramatic high contrast/deep blacks mentioned on page 77 is a long range of mid-tones, and it too has a legacy in tradition. The legacy is that of platinum and palladium prints, which started at the end of the 19th century. As an alternative process, they are enjoying a revival, and while this isn’t really relevant to us here, the side effect is a different black and white aesthetic, one in which the middle greys are expanded. The result may not be as exciting as the punchy effect of strong black to strong white, but it has the appeal of subtlety. There’s less emphasis on striking shapes and graphics, more on nuance.
It’s a common view that platinum and palladium prints have a very long range, but in fact the total range is considerably less than a normal black and white image, mainly because the darkest tones are well above a pure black, But it’s the separation of the mid-tones, from dark grey to light grey, that marks this way of shooting and processing. In the example shown above, the dynamic range in the scene was not particularly high, which allowed the middle greys to be pulled apart during processing for good separation. At the same time, unlike a platinum print, digital processing allows black and white points to be set easily, giving you, to my mind at least, the best of both worlds.
Low heavy summer clouds roll over Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye. The result is a succession of greys that tie land and sky together